One Crucial Ingredient
Several years ago, I took a boat-building class in which we made ﬁberglass kayaks. The instructor guided our group through all the preliminary steps of selecting the design, preparing the mold, and cutting the ﬁberglass fabric into the proper shapes. When all was ready, our instructor emphasized the importance of one crucial step: the necessity of adding a catalyst to the resin that we would apply to the fabric pieces before layering them into the mold. The polyester resin would remain a liquid until the catalyst—a small quantity of liquid hardener—was added. That hardener would activate a chemical curing process. The instructor emphasized that the success of our finished product would be dependent upon thoroughly mixing in that hardener. He recounted that in one case, a kayak builder forgot to add it, and the result was a complete loss.
Faith is a catalyst
The importance of adding the catalyst brought words from the Book of Hebrews to mind, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not proﬁt them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Hebrews 4:2). The word “them” refers to the Israelites of Moses’ day, but they had a problem we still see in our era—individuals who know a great deal about God but have no personal faith or experience with Him.
People in the United States have virtually unlimited access to God’s Word; anyone can obtain a Bible. Many have had instruction in righteousness and encouragement in the Gospel. Access to God’s Word and godly instruction certainly are valuable components in building a strong Christian life, but they must be “activated” by being mixed with faith. In this sense, faith is a catalyst—a necessary ingredient that must be present in order to achieve the desired result. Without this crucial element, all eﬀorts toward spiritual growth will result in a complete loss.
At times, individuals may claim that they have no faith. However, we read in Romans 12:3 that “God hath dealt to every man a measure of faith.” In our boat-building endeavor, those in our group had clear guidance from the instructor regarding the appropriate quantity or “measure” of catalyst needed. Similarly, in our Christian walks, God will never fail to furnish each of us with an appropriate measure of faith for the challenges that confront us.
The necessity of faith
Faith is deﬁned in Scripture as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). As I considered how faith acts as a catalyst in our spiritual lives, several speciﬁc areas where faith is necessary came to mind.
Faith is needed to receive salvation. When Jesus walked this earth, the Jewish people thought they had to keep all the rules of the Law in order to be acceptable to God. However, Paul taught the Early Church that a man was not justiﬁed by adherence to the Law but by faith in Jesus Christ, “for by the works of the law shall no ﬂesh be justiﬁed” (Galatians 2:16). Ephesians 2:8-9 repeats the same principle and emphasizes the necessity of faith: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” This required a radical shift in thinking for the Jews, who were accustomed to “earning” righteousness by their works.
In Acts chapter 16, we find an example of salvation by faith. A mighty earthquake had opened the doors of the prison where Paul and Silas were confined for preaching the Gospel. The Philippian jailer, fearing all the prisoners had escaped, fell down before the two men and cried in desperation, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul responded, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:30-31). Faith was a necessity!
We begin our spiritual journeys when we exercise the catalyst of faith in the remedy Jesus Christ provided through His death on the Cross. Through faith, we believe that God hears and forgives our sins when we repent and call upon Him. Then, by God’s grace, the work of salvation is done in our lives, and we stand before God as though we had never committed sin.
Faith is necessary to have true peace and joy. In Romans 5:1-2 we read, “Therefore being justiﬁed by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Being reconciled to God—having no sin blocking our relationship with Him—is a wonderful feeling! Times of adversity and trial may still come into our lives, but in spite of any outward circumstances, that inner peace will remain. Peace with God also allows us to live without fear of death or where we will spend eternity.
Faith is required to receive divine healing. James instructed, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15).
We ﬁnd many examples in God’s Word of times when Jesus healed in response to faith. For instance, Mark 5:25-34 tells of a woman with a longstanding aﬄiction who believed Jesus could heal her. When she ﬁnally was able to press through the crowd around Jesus and touch His garment, she was instantly healed. Jesus knew who had touched Him, but He wanted the woman’s faith to be declared, so He stopped and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” The disciples were puzzled at Christ’s inquiry since there was a large crowd pressing around Him. However, the woman knew what had been done and she fearfully stepped forward to acknowledge it. Christ’s response in verse 34 was, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” It is faith—not need, doubt, or fear—that moves the hand of God.
In another passage, we read of four men who brought their lame friend to Jesus for healing. Mark 2:5 says, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee” and then, “Arise, and take up thy bed” (verse 11). The lame man stood up, picked up his bed, and went home! It was his faith and the faith of his friends that caused Jesus to heal him.
The benefits of faith
In addition to times when faith is necessary to achieve the desired result, there are also great benefits that come with an exercise of our faith.
Faith will encourage others. The writer of Hebrews referred to being surrounded by a great “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), alluding to the heroes of faith described in the preceding chapter—individuals like Noah, Abraham, and Moses who proved God in challenging circumstances. These Biblical examples are for our benefit; they are there to strengthen and encourage our faith.
Many of us have also been blessed with a host of peers whose answers to prayers encourage us to exercise our faith. I recall a time some years ago when someone else’s faith encouraged mine. As a carpenter by trade, I try to be mindful of the potential hazards in that environment. However, one day a moment of carelessness with a framing nailer resulted in a three-inch nail curled through my index ﬁnger. A reﬂexive response—no doubt coupled with some shock and adrenaline—resulted in me extracting the nail myself. After some deep breaths and an examination of my injured finger, I came to the possibly questionable conclusion that since the nail was out, there was nothing more medical science could do for me. So I went ahead and ﬁnished out an increasingly painful workday.
By the time I went to bed that night, however, my finger was so swollen and painful it seemed sleep would be impossible. Then I recalled a sister’s testimony that gave me encouragement. She had shared that one evening when a severe headache was hindering her sleep, she put a church paper on her head and soon the pain subsided. Those of us listening knew she did not think there was some “magic” in that paper, but rather that she was claiming the faith of church workers who pray over all our Gospel publications before they are distributed. I thought, I can do that. I found a church tract and wrapped it around my ﬁnger with a rubber band, and in a short time, I was asleep. In the morning, I discovered the swelling and the pain of my injured finger had subsided signiﬁcantly. God had done for me what He had done for others, and I was thankful for that sister’s testimony which had encouraged my faith.
Faith provides protection in trials. Because we live in a sin-filled, troubled world, we will face challenges in life. Our faith is what helps us through those times. Ephesians 6:16 tells us that faith acts as a shield to protect us from our spiritual enemy’s eﬀorts to overcome us.
Some years ago, one of our ministers from Nigeria testified about facing two armed robbers wielding machetes. He and his companions had stopped alongside the highway to deal with an overheated van engine when they were unexpectedly attacked. As one robber dashed toward him, the Lord put a holy boldness in this minister’s spirit. He stood his ground and simply shouted “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” At the mention of that Name, the robbers took to their heels and fled into the bush. That was a case of physical protection, but when our faith and trust is in God, He also offers spiritual protection from assaults that may not be so outwardly evident.
Faith helps us appropriate God’s promises. God’s Word contains many “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4) that cover the whole spectrum of human needs. However, it is up to us to ﬁnd those promises and believe God will honor them for us. In other words, we make our requests “mixed” with faith.
I recall a time a number of years ago when I needed to mix some faith with God’s promises of provision. As a self-employed contractor, I had experienced some of the ﬂuctuations of work that occur in the construction industry. Up to that time, though, whenever my work slowed down there was a job on the horizon. In this instance, the situation was diﬀerent. I knew of no jobs coming my way—there had been no inquiries or requests for bids. Of course, I prayed, and started contacting all the builders I was acquainted with, but nothing emerged. Next, I drove around neighborhoods and subdivisions where jobs were starting, with the intention of asking if the contractor would take bids. Again, my efforts were ineffective.
At the end of another day of fruitless efforts, I began reviewing my attempts to find work and pondering God’s promises to meet our needs. As I searched my heart, an almost tangible assurance seemed to envelope me. I wondered if God could be preparing me for some complete change in career or environment. There was actually a sense of adventure in what might be revealed! Whatever happened, I knew the whole matter was entirely in God’s hands.
Well, it turned out God had not planned a change in career or environment. Apparently my faith needed to be stretched and strengthened! A short time later, a builder I did not know called and asked if I would be available to frame a couple of houses. Of course, I agreed. When I was part way through framing the second house, he asked if I could do the siding as well. However, I had to respectfully decline because by then I had so much work lined up there was no more room in my schedule! God had proved once again that “there hath not failed one word of all His good promise” (1 Kings 8:56).
Faith can impact the generations who follow us. Paul wrote to Timothy, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt ﬁrst in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also” (2 Timothy 1:5). When our faith is strong and true, it can be passed on to others, including our family.
God allowed me to be raised in a godly environment, with grandparents, parents, and numerous aunts and uncles who prioritized loving and serving God. Seeing those examples of trust and obedience has had a great impact on my own faith. Through the years, I have benefitted from their prayers, counsel, and support, and have been encouraged to do my best to pass on those same benefits to the next generation.
Faith is pleasing to God
We cannot succeed spiritually without faith. The writer of Hebrews asserted, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). It doesn’t matter if we think our faith is small. In another place, the Bible asserts that great things can be accomplished through faith that is merely the size of a mustard seed. The conclusion is obvious: it is not the amount that counts, but the belief in our hearts that God will always be true to the promises of His Word. When God sees our faith, He responds!
Looking back on my experience in kayak building, it still seems remarkable that a small quantity of catalyst was so essential to a successful outcome. As I consider the spiritual parallel, I am assured that God can accomplish great things when we mix faith with the petitions we bring Him.